Fairbanks

Fairbanks
My vacation is almost over. I can’t believe how fast these 11 days have gone by. It was just a year ago I was planning this trip and beginning my countdown.

We arrived in Fairbanks around noon and headed to the Riverboat Discovery Tour. Princess ships weren’t the only ones there. NCL and Holland American also came by bus. We moved into a large dining hall that served lunch family style and picnic type tables. They served a stew, some type of soup, pasta salad and a brownie. The soup and stew were served in large cast iron pots and the stew was really good.

Once lunch was over we got in line to get on the large paddlewheel boat and went down the river. There were some incredible homes along the shore (photos below). As we went down the river, there were people on the shore giving demonstrations. One was showing puppies at a training camp for dogs for dog sledding. They were so cute and I got my puppy fix. Farther down the river they stopped and showed how the tribes smoked fish at a fish camp. At one point we got off the boat and went to shore and went to different areas to get presentations on how the native Alaskans survived by hunting and making pelts. We got back on the boat and headed up the river. It started raining when we were going through presentations so once on the boat it was warm and I started falling asleep.

We finally got to the hotel and fortunately my suitcase was in my room. I went down to one of the restaurants and grabbed a quick dinner and came back upstairs. I have to have my suitcase outside my room by 5am and catch the transfer at 6:30 to the airport for my 8:40 flight.

I will admit I am looking forward to going home to see my family and my Charlie, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I will come back to Alaska. There is still so much I didn’t see. I’m not sure if I would do a cruise or if I did, I would do the land portion first and then relax on the cruise. You really enjoy the luxury of unpacking once instead of living out of a suitcase. I would love to go to the Kenai area, Copper River, Sitka and Seward.

I met a lot of great people on this trip from around the world. Some I know I will be friends with for a long time. This trip was the most incredible experience of my life and I’m sorry it’s over. Monday its back to reality.

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Denali

Denali

It was only a 2 hour and 20 minute drive from McKinley to Denali. It rained the whole way here and as soon as we got close to the lodge, there was a rainbow and the sun came out.

As soon as I stepped out of the bus, it was very cold; mid 40’s. Sorry to my San Diego friends.
I went to my room but it wasn’t ready yet so I went to the great room and got on the internet. I’m lucky here at this lodge, I’m close to the great room so I get internet here in my room for free.

My Tundra Wilderness Tour wasn’t until 2pm so I grabbed a cookie and a mocha and waited outside for the bus to arrive.

We were on the road right at 2pm and saw animals almost right a way. First sighting was caribou. It wasn’t long before we saw some bears, all grizzlies. I couldn’t believe how the colors of Fall were all over the park. It was so pretty. We went 63 miles in and turned around. We were out for about 7-1/2 hours.

Tonight the Northern lights are supposed to be “moderate” so I put in a wake up call if they come out. So far the clouds have stayed away so here’s hoping.

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McKinley to Denali Princess Lodge

Whittier

This morning I woke up at 4:30 am. Both the alarm on the iPad and wake up call both worked. We had arrived in Whittier at 12:30am. One of the bright orange lights on the dock shone right into my cabin. Once I had gathered everything up, I headed to International Cafe for a muffin and coffee and then headed to Bordeaux Dining room to wait to disembark to the train.

I headed to car 2, table 18 and made myself comfortable for the next 5-1/2 hours. Weather hasn’t been too nice. Rain is falling. I’m hoping things clear up as we continue north.

The train ride was a nice 5-1/2 hours. Once a couple moved out it was just myself and one other lady from Calgary. The wife asked the other lady if she would mind moving so she could sit next to her husband. Well that meant giving up the window seat. We both said no. They should have got there earlier like we did.

On the way up we saw Beluga whales hunting salmon. Other than that no other wildlife.

Here at the lodge, a mother black bear and her 2 twin cubs have been spotted walking around the grounds. The lodge is made up buildings that have two stories and rooms inside. I’m pretty far from the main lodge and that is the only place where they have free internet.

I go horseback riding at 5pm for a couple of hours, have dinner with the girls and then head to bed. I have to have my suitcase outside my room by 7:30 tomorrow morning and catch the bus to the Denali lodge at 9am. For tonight, I have put my name on the call list for the Northern Lights should they appear. The chance of seeing them or Mt. McKinley here is slim to none as it’s very cloudy and raining off and on. Right now it’s 54 degrees. I hear at home it is extremely hot. Not looking forward to going home to that this weekend.

More tomorrow from Denali then on to Fairbanks.

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McKinley Princess Lodge

Whittier

This morning I woke up at 4:30 am. Both the alarm on the iPad and wake up call both worked. We had arrived in Whittier at 12:30am. One of the bright orange lights on the dock shone right into my cabin. Once I had gathered everything up, I headed to International Cafe for a muffin and coffee and then headed to Bordeaux Dining room to wait to disembark to the train.

I headed to car 2, table 18 and made myself comfortable for the next 5-1/2 hours. Weather hasn’t been too nice. Rain is falling. I’m hoping things clear up as we continue north.

The train ride was a nice 5-1/2 hours. Once a couple moved out it was just myself and one other lady from Calgary. The wife asked the other lady if she would mind moving so she could sit next to her husband. Well that meant giving up the window seat. We both said no. They should have got there earlier like we did.

On the way up we saw Beluga whales hunting salmon. Other than that no other wildlife.

Here at the lodge, a mother black bear and her 2 twin cubs have been spotted walking around the grounds. The lodge is made up buildings that have two stories and rooms inside. I’m pretty far from the main lodge and that is the only place where they have free internet.

I go horseback riding at 5pm for a couple of hours, have dinner with the girls and then head to bed. I have to have my suitcase outside my room by 7:30 tomorrow morning and catch the bus to the Denali lodge at 9am. For tonight, I have put my name on the call list for the Northern Lights should they appear. The chance of seeing them or Mt. McKinley here is slim to none as it’s very cloudy and raining off and on. Right now it’s 54 degrees. I hear at home it is extremely hot. Not looking forward to going home to that this weekend.

More tomorrow from Denali then on to Fairbanks.

College Fjord – Sea Day

Last night I had a wonderful dinner with David and Jacki in Sabatini’s. All the food was wonderful.

I woke up at 4:30 but not by choice. The ship was rocking really bad. We heard there was going to be 12′ swells but this was ridiculous. I immediately took a Bonine.

Today is basically a sea day as we don’t reach College Fjord until 5pm.

The seas have continued to be very rough. You can’t even look outside your window. All I wanted to eat for breakfast this morning was toast and corn flakes. I picked up a green apple because I heard it helps with sea sickness should I get it.

I did another small load of laundry along with everyone else and watched an episode of The Love Boat. The funny thing about watching these episodes is that I still remember them as if I just watched them and some of them are almost 30 years old.

Tonight we have to have our bags outside our room before we go to bed. I’m basically already packed. I had to make sure everything I bought would fit in my suitcase. I also have to decide what I’m going to put in my carryon since I don’t see my suitcase again until I get to The McKinley Lodge and were not allowed to bring too much on the train.

It’s kind of sad that after tomorrow that I will no longer be on the ship. I will also not have as much food around me because starting tomorrow I have to pay for everything. I’m glad I decided to do the cruisetour after the ship otherwise this trip would be over too soon. I have to be in the dining room by 6am tomorrow, and then we climb onto the train.

My minutes are winding down so I will posting again tomorrow once I reach the lodge and I have free internet.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

I set the alarm to wake up at 5am this morning because they say the best time to see wildlife on the way to Glacier Bay is very early in the morning. I went up had some breakfast and as I was heading to my seat, some people by the window spotted some whales. I missed them. I quietly ate my breakfast and headed down to the International Cafe for my morning coffee and headed back to my room. I was soo cold walking on the deck to the Horizon Court that I decided to bundle up some more. The new lined jacket I bought was perfect. As I was in my room glancing out the balcony window, out of no where 3 Orcas surfaced. I grabbed my camera but unfortunately they were too far away to get a good shot. I grabbed the binoculars and just stood out there and waited. Then more came up. I could hear the other people on their balconies making comments too.

The rangers were brought on board the ship around 6am and we should be in Glacier Bay by 9am. It is very foggy out so I hope we get to see the Glaciers and here’s hoping for a calving, otherwise known as “white thunder”.

Well, we didn’t get to see any calving but I couldn’t believe how the sun came out yet again and it was beautiful in Glacier Bay. There wasn’t any wildlife except birds and the orcas on the way into the bay. Right now we’re sailing out of Glacier Bay and I saw another whale. No sea lions, seals or otters.

Tonight I was invited to join my British friends in Sabatini’s since I missed out last night.

Tomorrow is College Fjord then it’s off at Whittier and on to Denali.

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Skagway

Yesterday afternoon I took a nice long nap and then went down to International Cafe to grab a little something for dinner. Horizon Court didn’t have much for me so I had another Waldorf Chicken Salad and Caprece panini. I met up with my fellow cruisers Deborah, Rich and Laurie and we hung out there for a while.

Skagway

I woke up this morning and found we had already docked in Skagway. Since my tour had changed from 7:20 to 1:20 I took my time getting dressed and went up to breakfast. Since most of the boat was out on excursions, I decided to do a load of laundry. I was the first one in there and figured out how to us the machines and then proceeded to teach all the other passengers that came in. Since I had an abundance of Tide Pods and quarters, I was able to sell my remaining quantities and even make a buck or two. Who knew?

I walked into town in the pouring rain to get a souvenir t-shirt from Skagway and wandered back. When it came time to my tour, I headed back to the dock and waited for the guide. We were taken down to the dock and got on a boat. The seas were very rough and I was afraid I would get sick because I didn’t take any Bonine today since it was making me so sleepy. I was okay. We made it to Glacier Point and got on a bus to a remote area. They gave us sandwiches and then we put on boots and rain gear and hiked down to the canoes. From here on it was absolutely fantastic. We canoed up to Davidson Glacier and little did I know, we actually got to walk on the glacier. It was incredible. Parts of the glacier were floating in the lake. I got some nice pictures. We came back to the beach and got on the boat. Going back was much smoother. The the captain stopped the boat and we had a pod of Dall’s porpoises swimming and jumping around the boat. There was a point where the salt water and fresh water met and put a line in the water. The porpoises stopped like they hit a wall and went back to the salt water. We just stayed there for a while and watched them swim and jump around us. We could’t have ended the day any better. The guide on the boat said this was the first time this season they have seen them. Because we stopped, we were the last 21 people to get on the boat before it left. I was bummed because I wasn’t able to meet up with my fellow ship mates in the specialty restaurant but I had a feeling I was going to be late so I told them not to wait for me.

Tomorrow we arrive in Glacier Bay. I hope we get to see some orcas.

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Juneau

Friday afternoon, I kind of wandered around the ship. I was exhausted from kayaking so I tried to take a nap but that didn’t work. The naturalist came over the speaker and said that in about 3 hours we should be out on deck for possible whale sightings. I found a space out front on the top deck and just parked myself there. More people started marking their spots too and we waited. And we waited. There were quite a few white caps so it was hard to spot a spout but 2-1/2 hours later (for me), we finally spotted some. Their spouts were easy to spot and then they would surface for just a bit. There was this one that appeared to be on his head and just flopping his fluke back and forth. Dr. Ryan, the naturalist, said this was something he had never seen. It was more like something you would see at Sea World.

The wind started to pick up and I hadn’t had dinner yet, so I decided to head to Horizon Court. Well, apparently so did everyone else. The place was packed. I really didn’t find anything I liked so I had a small salad and decided to head to the International Cafe. There I had the Waldorf Chicken Salad and a caprece panini. Both were excellent. It was getting late so I decided to go back to my cabin and get ready for bed.

Juneau

We arrived a head of schedule in Juneau by about 30 minutes. We arrived to rain. I grabbed a quick breakfast in Horizon Court (because my alarm didn’t go off) and headed to the gangway to go on Harv & Marv’s whale watching. The bus picked us up at the dock, we pick up a group at the Carnival Miracle boat and headed out. It was cold. We went out with Captain Shawn and let’s just say, they didn’t disappoint. There were 12 of us on the boat and the seats were fixed with hydraulics so you didn’t feel the shock so much when you hit the waves. I’ve come to realize that the Bonine I’m taking to prevent sea sickness is making me groggy. I quickly woke up when we arrived at the area where whales are spotted. Before long we were seeing spouts and flukes and whales galore. I took pictures and video but my camera doesn’t take great distance shots.

We left the area for awhile and went to see some Stellar Sea Lions. There were a bunch of them on a beach. They were mostly sleeping or making obnoxious noises so we headed back to see more whales. At one point there were 5 together, one being a calf. We lost them for a few minutes and realized they had gone under the boat and came up really close in the back. That scared quite a few people who were out there. The boats have to stay 100 yards from the whales but apparently the whales can be as close as they want.

We came back to shore, and the bus took us to Mendenhall Glacier. Because of the bad weather, we didn’t stay for long. Some went into town, I went to the ship to get lunch and drop off my large fanny pack. It is still raining and cold and were here in Juneau until 8:30 pm. I’m going to go walk around in a bit and find some free wifi spots. Libby Riddles, the first woman to win the Iditarod, is speaking here on the ship later and I may go see her.

Tomorrow is Skagway. I received notice that my Glacier Safari tomorrow at 7:20 am was cancelled so they re-booked me for the 1:20. At least I’ll get to sleep in a bit.

Time to go find some Juneau souvenirs.

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Ketchikan

Last night was formal night and the Champagne waterfall. Since 4 of us had Anytime dining, we decided to go at 5:30. This was the only formal night I was doing. We were put at a table of 10. There were two couples from Canada and I’m not sure where the other one was from. I had gone to afternoon tea at 3:30 so I tried not to eat too much at dinner. Fortunately the portions are small so I got a shrimp cocktail and fettuccine Alfredo that was served in a parmesan basket/bowl and for dessert was chocolate peanut butter pie. Since we had dinner early, we watched the Champagne waterfall and went and saw the early show in the Princess Theater called Motor City. Not bad. It was only 30 minutes long. I was exhausted and knew I was getting up early the next morning so I headed to bed. This time I made sure the alarm was set for AM not PM.

Ketchikan
We arrived right on schedule at 6am to pouring down rain. I was planning on rain for kayaking so I dressed accordingly. My tour was to start on the the dock at 7:20am so I got up early, ordered room service the night before. I was dressed long before the room service was scheduled to arrive so I went down to the International Cafe and got my morning Milk and White Chocolate Mocha and watched as they docked the boat.

When I got off the ship and met the tour rep, I found out there was only 4 of us for the first of the morning tour. Myself, Gary from Colorado and Tomas and Jolie from Panama.

It was about a 30 minute drive to the location and it was a nice ride. There were 4 of us in a 50 pax bus. Once there, they gave us an orientation gave us a dry bag for our cameras, a drip skirt and a life vest. Gary and I were in the one boat and he had the duty of steering with the rudder. Once we were out there, it was absolutely beautiful. The rain had stopped. It wasn’t too cold or to hot. I asked if I should take my sunglasses but our guide said he wasn’t expecting any sun so to leave them behind. Big mistake; the sun came out and it was even more beautiful and incredibly quiet. We saw salmon jumping out of the water, eagles and eagles nests, starfish and even a curious seal came near us. He would just pop his head up out of the water, look at us for a bit, and go back down under.

We were out on the water for almost two hours. It’s incredible what the sound of water lapping on the side of a kayak can do to one’s bladder. Both Jolie and I really had to go and every once in a while there would be a big wake from a boat that kept getting too close to us and that only inspired us to get back to the dock faster. Sorry TMI. I had an incredible time. My arms are sore but it was so worth it. I came back on the ship, went up to the grill, had a cheeseburger and then went back off to a souvenir shop for some goodies to take home.

For some reason I’m not able to download the shots from my 64GB SD card on to my iPad so those will have to come when I get home.

Yesterday afternoon, a group of us went to listen to the Naturalist that is on board to talk about the glaciers. When we leave today, he is going to be talking over the loud speaker and pointing out wildlife. I was given a book by my travel agent they is called The Alaska Cruise Companion. Inside are maps that point out waypoints where whales (orcas & humpbacks) seals, otters, etc., are known to be at. I’m not sure if I’ll watch from my balcony or go up on deck.

Damn, I just looked at the Patter and I missed the Pub lunch that everyone always talks about. Hopefully it will be again later in the trip.

More tomorrow after whale watching with Harv and Marv.

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Sea Day

I woke up this morning around 5 after 6. I couldn’t figure out why the alarm didn’t go off and looked and saw I had set it for PM instead of AM. I wanted to get up early and walk the deck to get some exercise in. They say if you’re going to see any whales or dolphins, early in the morning is the best time. Sure enough I saw some dolphins. I thought I took a picture but I just checked my camera an I didn’t get it. Bummer. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. Once I had done my laps, I stopped off at the International Cafe and got a White Chocolate/Dark Chocolate Mocha. I know, me and white chocolate don’t go but I knew that if I got it mixed in there, I wouldn’t need much sugar and I was right. Looks like I found my drink of choice every morning.

Once I took a shower I went down to the Horizon Court for breakfast. I met a nice lady from Texas as I was sitting there eating my breakfast. When she asked where I was from and I said San Diego, the first thing she said was, “You all are getting rid of your mayor”. Thanks Filner, Even on a cruise, I can’t get away from you.

Before I headed to breakfast, the captain announced that we would be slowing down to do a routine test of the propulsion system. Two words you don’t want to hear on a cruise are propulsion system. I had noticed we had stopped before his announcement so now I know why. At least it was just a test.

The weather this morning is very gloomy and finally cold; exactly what I packed for. Yesterday in Vancouver is was warm and muggy and I had to change to the only t-shirt I brought.

While I was walking to breakfast the officer of the deck announced that a whale was off the starboard side. I ran to a window but didn’t see anything.

So far the seas have been calm; at least I don’t feel anything on the boat. As I’m sitting here in The Library looking out at the white caps, I’m surprised I don’t feel any movement at all.

Our Meet & Greet is in about an hour and a half.

More later.